The successful delivery of care.data, NHS.uk and N4 “appears to be unachievable”, according to a report published by the government’s Major Projects Authority.
The report, published last week, tracks the progress of all major government projects giving ratings ranging from green to red.
It gives urgent red confidence assessment ratings to NHS England’s plans to roll out care.data; to overhaul NHS Choices as NHS.uk; and to launch the Health and Social Care Network, formerly known as N4.
The red rating means: “successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable. There are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable,” the report says. Projects may also need “re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed.”
NHS England says these labels are based on data submitted to the Major Projects Authority in September 2014 and progress has since been made.
Nevertheless the report’s outcome is another setback for care.data, a controversial programme to create a central database of patient data, including information from GP records.
The scheme was meant to launch in February 2014, but was delayed due to pressure from privacy campaigners concerned with the lack of clarity on how to opt out of the programme.
The Major Projects Authority report highlights several issues with the programme, including the need to “agree and communicate the programme scope” and “reconstitute the programme board with a clear role and responsibilities.”
It also recommends that care.data recruit a senior responsible owner and other key personnel; approve explicit go/no go criteria; and clarify the financial situation of the programme.
The care.data team has since taken actions to address these issues, including the appointment of a senior responsible owner in the form of Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at NHS England.
A spokesperson for NHS England told Digital Health News: “This is an old report from eight months ago and since then a lot of work has been done on the programme.
“A subsequent review undertaken in February of this year reported the care.data programme as amber/red reflecting the progress made.”
A red label was also given to NHS England’s plan to revamp the NHS Choices website from being a health information provider to an interactive digital hub for the NHS under the name NHS.uk, encompassing NHS Choices, NHS 111, e-Referrals, a health app library and other digital tools.
Issues noted by the Major Projects Authority include the need for clarity on future direction and funding for the service as well as details on how the budget will be split between providing an ongoing ‘live service’ in the form of NHS Choices and the ‘transformation’ programme necessary to create this new model for NHS.uk.
The report also highlights the need for leadership of the programme, with NHS England saying it has since responded with the appointment of Beverley Bryant as senior responsible owner.
The authority’s report also gives a red warning to the Health and Social Care Network, which is due to replace the secure N3 network for sharing electronic information across the NHS.
This red label is due to delays in the programme while its strategic direction is reviewed, meaning the planned budget allocation is no longer relevant and a business case for the programme cannot be approved.
Updating on progress on the Health and Social Care Network, the report says the programme team has now “started to develop a blueprint out of which agreement on the exit, transition and procurement plans will be developed.”
According to the HSCIC website, this blueprint is due to be produced this month and transition to the new service will be carried out over 2016-17.
A business case team has also been recruited, including staff involved in the current N3 service team.
In addition to these red warnings, the MPA issued amber alerts to projects where successful delivery “appears feasible but significant issues already exist, requiring management attention.”
NHS IT projects rated as amber include the Nursing Technology Fund, NHSmail2 and the NHS e-Referral Service, which launched this month but has experienced significant issues and several periods of shutdown.